I think Spring is almost here….well, almost! Here are a few tips from Mark Cullen, a best selling author, and the host of “Gardening Tips with Mark” on CTV’s Canada AM:

  • Start With a Plan. Make a list of the things you want to accomplish with your garden: Do you want to do a complete renovation? Create some space for your kids? Design a place to entertain? Consider these goals before you start any planting.
  • Go Slow. Now is the time to start sowing your seeds indoors. Find a sunny window and let the plants warm up to the March weather in the comfort of your living room. These can be both vegetables and flowers and can stay indoors until the frost has completely thawed.
  • Only the Best Will Do. Prepare your soil with lots of organic matter, as most gardens’ success revolves around this preparation. Plants will actually take care of themselves; you just need to feed the soil. Add compost and triple mix, especially if the soil is poor to begin with, and let the soil support the plants.
  • Mix and Match. Once plants are ready for the outdoors, make sure each one has its needs matched to the environment. Shade-loving plants go in the shade; sun worshippers go in the sun. Watch out for aggressive plants- only choose ones that you know you can keep at bay.
  • Lessen the Workload. Choose native plants like Echinacea to round out your space. They reduce your water usage and lighten the maintenance required.
  • Patio Party. For those with condo patios or house decks, containers are essential. Buy good quality container soil and don’t use old earth from last year (take it to a nearby park and spread it there). Make sure your containers have drainage access and use a slow release fertilizer, like a “once-in-a-season,” that you only have to apply at the beginning of spring.
  • Behave Yourself. Or rather, pick plants that behave themselves. Aggressive plants can create more work than you have time for. Ornamental grasses, for example, are big right now: the travellers, which move mostly by root through the garden, are very invasive, yet the clumpers tend to stay in their place and won’t take over your garden. Choose the latter.
  • Stay Away from Chemicals. An easy way to prevent weeds from growing is to overseed your lawn, for example, with fresh quality grass seed. The quality of the grass seed in the bag is the pedigree of your lawn tomorrow. Buy quality grass seeds and you won’t regret it.
  • Keep Weeds at Bay: A low maintenance (and natural) way to reduce weeds in your garden is to add finely ground mulch about 5 cm thick. This insulates the soil so that evaporation doesn’t take place as fast. Sun can’t reach down there, so the weeds won’t push through, eliminating the majority of your weeding problems within the first year.



Download Trash Tracking Form here:  NWEP tracking

The Trash Talkers are a group of NWEP volunteers who found they are spending too much time talking about solid waste and decided to do something about it. Rallying together during the 2009-2010 consultations around the Metro Vancouver Solid Waste Resource Management Plan, effectively lobbying the City to consider smaller options when they rolled out the automated trash bins for single-family dwellings, promoting the City’s recycling, composting, and organic waste collection programs at community events, and buoyed by the success of two “Neighbourhood Zero Waste Challenges”, the trash talkers have been doing more than talking in the last two years.

The next project is to take lessons from the Neighbourhood ZWCs, and apply them out in the larger community. One of the take-home lessons of the Neighbourhood ZWC was that people started to think about garbage as something other than that stuff that magically disappears after you take to the curb once a week. This was precipitated by making people actually sort and weight their garbage.

In reality, most people don’t want to weight their garbage. It is time consuming and has a certain “yuck” factor. However, all single-family homes and duplexes in New Westminster now have automated trash bins. That means we can estimate the amount of garbage we produce over a few months just by counting the number of bins that go to the curb. It is hoped that this information will be helpful to the City in planning further waste-reduction strategies, without the expense and hassle of a full trash survey. This is where you come in.

The NWEP have put together a simple garbage-tracking form. It is designed to be either attached or posted next to the garbage calendar you receive from the City. All you have to do to fill it out is make a check mark every time you take one or both of your trash bins to the curb. You can mark if the bin was “full”, about half full, almost empty, or if you didn’t take it out that week. The same for the Green Organic Waste bin.

At the end of the survey, you can scan, e-mail, or drop your tracking sheet off (or we can come by and pick it up from you). We will collect this data, post it on our website (the names and addresses of all participants will remain anonymous) and present it to New Westminster Council and Staff in the Fall.

What do we hope to get out of this?

Many people in New Westminster are already very conscious of their waste stream, and take efforts to reduce the amount of garbage they take to the curb. One of the reasons the NWEP fought to make the 120L garbage bins available as an option (the City was leaning towards 180L or 240L bins) was that the City’s own older studies showed the average household put out less than 75L of trash a week.

If this is the case, then perhaps the 120L bins are too large for many people. If the 75L bin were available (as they are in Vancouver) for people, then perhaps the City will see some further reduction of waste, and the concomitant reduction of garbage collection costs can be passed onto the residents with the smaller bins. Or, with the organics (i.e. “stinky stuff”) now removed from the regular waste stream, perhaps many residents would prefer to only have their trash picked up once every two weeks, or less frequently.

But to change “status quo” of the garbage magically disappearing (the magic part only exposed when you get your annual Solid Waste Utility Tax bill in the mail), we need more than ideas: we need numbers to support these ideas.

Please, download and print off the garbage tracking sheet. If you don’t have a printer, drop us a line and we will get one to your house. Each line on the sheet corresponds with the first day of the week as shown on your City Garbage Calendar. We would like to start keeping numbers in March, mostly to work out any kinks in the system, but if you can’t start until April, that is OK too!

Any questions? Comments? Concerns? Curiosities?

You can email Jane at jearmstrong@shaw.ca, or Patrick at pdjohnst@telus.net.
You can call Jane at 604-524-6112
You can comment to the trash talkers mail list (this is an open mail list, so don’t post anything you would like to keep confidential!) trashtalk@nwep.ca.
Or keep up to date with progress on the NWEP website (www.nwep.ca).

Happy counting!

Breathe new life into old objects and reduce landfill waste by diverting leftover odds and ends that would be relegated to the dumpster into useful items.

Call it repurposing, call it recrafting, call it creative reuse, or call it trash transformed. No matter what you call it, this concept of “cradle to cradle” is one of the tenants of green living. It means that a product’s lifecycle doesn’t have to end up forever rotting away in a landfill. It can be endlessly reincarnated into useful items.

We EcoNesters talk a lot about purging clutter, living slower, donating and thrifting, and living minimally. So, this post is going to take a different tact. It isn’t going to tell you that hording some things isn’t such a bad idea. In fact, hold onto those scraps.

But, wait a minute … scraps are junk, right? Not so fast. Scrap items can be put to use and given a “life after waste.” In fact, the end products of materials are often called salvage. That’s a great word for things that are “saved from the ruins” and eventually end up in dumpsters.

If you’re like me, you’ve got all sorts of scraps hanging around just ready for a new practical renaissance of sorts. Think of it as part of the transformation of renewal for living a more resourceful life.

Scrap renewal projects using…

1. Yarn
If you read my posts with any regularity, you know that knitting is my number one DIY project of choice. Yarn scraps abound in the needle world, and this pin cushion from Craft Leftovers via the Craftzine blog is perhaps one of the best uses I’ve seen for small amounts of yarn scraps.

2. Wood
Keep those wood scraps out of the burn pile and make a beautiful and unique scrap wood cutting board from Instructables.

3. Fabric
I love wrapping gifts using fabric. Here is a pattern from Purl Bee to make an easy, little drawstring bag that could become the perfect packaging for gift giving.

4. Paper
While cardboard furniture has been making the DIY design rounds lately, I’m not sure how comfy these things are to sit on. This bowl, by A Little Hut that is created using scraps of magazine cuttings seems more useful.

5. Plastic
Not being much of a plastic user or a soda drinker, I don’t have a lot of plastic recycling hanging around, but this is truly one of the post amazing things I’ve seen using tossed plastic: This plastic kayak shown here at Gizmodo with DIY instructions from Instructables is outrageous!

6. Glass
I’ve had a case of severe chandelier envy. You can read about it here and here. So, when I found this outdoor glass chandelier over on Casa Sugar crafted from recycled glass jars, it lit my fire.


Ronnie Citron-Fink is a writer and educator. Ronnie regularly writes about sustainable living for online sites and magazines. Along with being the creator of www.econesting.com, Ronnie has contributed to numerous books about green home design, DIY, children, and humor. Ronnie lives the Hudson Valley of New York with her family.

Zero Waste is a philosophy and a design principle for the 21st Century. It includes ‘recycling’ but goes beyond recycling by taking a ‘whole system’ approach to the vast flow of resources and waste through human society.

Zero Waste maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.

Zero Waste:

  • redesigns the current, one-way industrial system into a circular system modeled on Nature’s successful strategies
  • challenges badly designed business systems that “use too many resources to make too few people more productive”
  • addresses, through job creation and civic participation, increasing wastage of human resources and erosion of democracy
  • helps communities achieve a local economy that operates efficiently, sustains good jobs, and provides a measure of self-sufficiency.
  • aims to eliminate rather than manage waste


Spring is finally coming! I can see my first bulbs springing up, the buds on the Magnolia’s are getting more robust and I have spotted several Robin Red Breasts flitting around my garden. On Friday the kids and I actually cleaned the patio furniture off and hung out in the garden blowing bubbles and dreaming of warmer weather.

It’s around this time every year that I get the bug to get my garden cleaned up, planted, do spring cleaning, store away the extra winter blankets, sweaters, snow boots etc and get outside!

The following article is from H Bishara who shares with us a greener way to tackle Spring cleaning – enjoy!

H Bishara’s top five eco-friendly things to do this spring:

  1. This year I’m eliminating any chemicals from my garden and planting all organic plants. It’s a little more expensive and a little harder to find, but it’s a lot healthier for your kids if they play in your yard to get rid of those awful fertilizers full of chemicals.
  2. My spring cleaning will be done with lots of vinegar, baking soda and plant derived cleaners. Get rid of those old cleaners that are made with petrochemicals, unnatural fragrances and use products that bring a healthier environment to your home. Did you know that your indoor air could be causing health issues to you and your family?
  3. Open your windows and let the fresh air in. Wash your windows with a mixture of half vinegar and half water, usually this will improve your indoor air quality and leave your windows spotless.
  4. Is it time to clean out a few clogged drains? Here are some helpful tips for a more natural way to clean drains. Throw away those chemicals; they go straight to our water supply.
  5. Time to go green with your hot water heater; your water heater uses a lot of energy to keep water hot 24/7. Check out tankless water heaters or called hot water on demand systems.

For starters just do one task in an eco-friendly way and then pass this list on to a friend and encourage her to do the same. We can create a better planet one step at a time.

Author – H Bishara

The Clean Bin Project has partnered with the Royal City Farmers Market for a screening in New West!

February 5th at Holy Trinity Cathedral will be a great night in New Westminster for anyone interested in reducing their waste, contributing to their personal health, and networking with other like-minded folks. The Royal City Farmers Market is pleased to be hosting the Annual General Meeting at the church’s hall.
Doors open at 5:30pm for citizens to register and purchase their annual membership.

As a special nod to Royal City Farmers Markets supporters, show your 2011 Membership and receive admission to
the film for only $3! Regular admission is $5-$10. All are welcome at the film screening – tickets are available at the
door and will sell out.

The film starts at 7:30. (you can come for the AGM, come for the film, or come for both) Poster attached.
Please help us spread the word!

Next World TV, created by Bibi Farber.

This clip is an inspiring story about the past and the kind of future that
is a viable, sustainable one for humanity.

Bibi calls it “Paradise on Earth — a 300 year old food forest in Vietnam.
28 generations have shared in developing this spectacularly lush
environment, that not only feeds the family but provides all the medicinal
herbs and plants they need.”